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Book Review: As You Wish, by Isobel Starling

As You Wish

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1 wedding, 2 best men, one hell of a love story!

Declan Ramsay’s brother Oliver was marrying Annabelle Aiken at a fairy tale Castle on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland. The bride and groom decided, so that he didn’t feel left out, Annabelle’s gay younger brother Sam Should share the best man duties with Declan.

Declan had never met the kid who was to be his joint best man.
Sam Aiken was abroad, working as an interpreter and finishing his studies. He wouldn’t meet Declan until a few days before the wedding, so the best men communicated and planned their speech by email for more than a year.

But on meeting Sam Aiken, Declan is surprised to realise the kid isn’t a kid at all, but a tall, blond and athletic young man. Declan is sure he’s straight, so he’s alarmed by the ferocious attraction he feels for Sam. And as the attraction is reciprocated, the events at Dunloch Castle change everything Declan has ever believed about himself.

But is Samuel Aiken all that he appears to be?

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’sLove is an Open Road” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

This story may contain sexually explicit content and is intended for adult readers. It may contain content that is disagreeable or distressing to some readers. The M/M Romance Group strongly recommends that each reader review the General Information section before each story for story tags as well as for content warnings.

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Book – As You Wish (Shatterproof Bond 0.5)

Author – Isobel Starling

Star rating – ★★★☆☆

No. of Pages – 113

Cover – Nice

POV – 3rd person, omni-present

Would I read it again – Maybe. I’m undecided.

Genre – LGBT, GFY, Short, Contemporary, Humour

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** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **

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Okay, this was a hard one for me. First off, I have to admit that the story has a lot of potential, but it’s in dire need of edits and a few Scottish beta readers. The biggest problem, for me, is Declan. But I don’t want this to be a purely negative review, so I’m going to go into the pros and cons briefly.

Pros:

  • good plot, if a little predictable

  • nice chemistry and relationship building

  • twist at the end, which adds intrigue for the next book

  • the Princess Bride aspect. I’m a huge fan, so the quotes took me back.

Cons:

  • the Princess Bride quotes were overused. It was nice at first, but got a bit much.

  • a lot of grammar/spelling mistakes

  • it started off with one POV per scene, then quickly slipped into omni-present. Infrequently at first, as though it was a mistake, then more obviously as the story progressed.

  • Improper use of italics. Thoughts aren’t properly separated by italics, though some non-thoughts are given italics when they shouldn’t be.

  • A lot of info dumps – mostly on people, their appearances, their background and so forth, all in one big paragraph or two of information that interrupts the flow of the story

  • No warning or separation of flashbacks

  • icky sex, e.g. rimming with no prep, butter as lube (very unhygenic!)

  • most of the story “tells” instead of “showing”

As you can see from the above, I had a lot of issues with this one. I’m trying to be clear on what I didn’t like and why, while also giving credit to the story that was a decent plot. I’m just a little annoyed about some things. Mostly, it’s the Scottish thing.

Having a Scottish character and a Scottish location is rare in books. At least that I’ve come across, so I was excited to see it included here. Unfortunately, it’s exploited to the max. Declan is continually referred to as ‘the Scotsman’. I get it, when it’s Sam’s POV, because this is the only way he can identify him. But it’s frustrating and makes no sense that it also happens during Declan’s own POV. The same can be said for Sam being referred to as ‘the young/younger man’. It’s fine for Declan’s POV, but not for his own.

As for Declan’s accent – oh my, that accent. All I can is that it’s wrong. As someone from Edinburgh myself, I can say that the accent he has is much broader than anything found naturally in Edinburgh. It might have worked, but the constant use of that phonetic accent grated on my last nerve every time Declan opened his mouth. It’s actually a little stereotypical and disappointing. We just don’t talk like that.

Unfortunately, in the end, it was the constant mis-use of Declan’s accent that rubbed me up the wrong way. I’m not sure why Sam didn’t have an “accent” to speak of, but from the way he was allowed to speak normally (more like how we Edinburgers speak) I’m guessing he was supposed to be English.

When it comes to characters, I actually founds Declan’s attitude very abrasive, for a main character. I also didn’t like the way he talked about women.

Honestly, this is marked as Gay For You, but it’s very clear from the beginning that Declan is a bit of a woman-hater. That may be a little strong, but it’s the only way I can think to explain it. From the start, it’s obvious that he’s never going to find the “right woman” and settle down and that he feels more affection for the Sam in the e-mails they’ve exchanged that he’s felt for any woman he’s dated.

His transition from womaniser to screwing Sam every other minute isn’t the GFY the book is advertised as. It’s more like an awakening. He never defines himself as a new sexuality, after believing he was straight, and there’s no real struggle with it either. I was looking for some internal fight, but it was very brief. Less than a chapter.

Sam is quirky and likeable, but the author does tend to mention too many times how highly intelligent he is and that he translates for a living. I get that he’s super smart and does a lot of great, adventurous things, but there’s a lot of repetition with it and it gets in the way of the story. He also goes from this shy, flirty puppy to a scratching, biting, BDSM beast in no time flat. It’s surprising and unexpected.

There was no warning about BDSM content, though I’m okay with reading it. It’s light, with just some mental and physical submission, then a little restraining. But it would have been nice to have that warning.

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Overall

Sadly, the whole ‘Scottish’ thing put me off and just not really my cup of tea.

Annabelle and Sam are often referred to by their full and nicknames in the same scenes, which is a little off putting and there’s too many information dumps. A combination of things – mostly a lack of proper editing – made this a struggle to read. It didn’t help that my Scottish-ness was mostly used as an anecdotal reference point, throughout most of the story. Declan’s character was supposedly there to stand up for it, when others made fun of it, but it never came across sincere. The deep fried mars bars and the accents tipped me over the edge.

I could have loved this story, as a great novella about a guy finding his true self. But the Scottish element hit too close to home, in the worst ways. It was all too stereotypical and not really handled they way I’d hoped.

The fact that there are dub-con scenes (two – first with Sam forcing Declan to go down on him and secondly when Declan punishes Sam with sex) and BDSM – both of which I had no advanced warning about, made this a no for me. There were just too many elements I couldn’t look past.

The ending alone was so unexpected and unnecessary that I felt like we’d stepped into the Twilight-Zone. It bordered on ridiculous, the way it came out of nowhere, so I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series.

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Favourite Quote

Declan was nudged forwards, falling into the young man’s lap. The blond man opened his surprised eyes and grinned childishly.

Even though I actually wouldn’t mind, I don’t think they’ll let you sit in my lap for the whole flight,” he said drolly, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

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